The Edge of My Comfort Zone

edgeMy husband finds it extremely puzzling that I enjoy the occasional Lifetime movie. His reasoning is good enough. He thinks I am intelligent, but those movies… not so much. And while I’m appreciative of the reason for his puzzlement, it does not change the way I feel about them.
 
Right around the time I got the ax from my previous place of employment, a movie came out about a woman named Tess who, much like me, had been unexpectedly handed her walking papers. However, this is where the similarities between my life and Tess’s life end. 
 
Reeling from the new reality in which she now finds herself, Tess takes off for a career conference in the hopes of making new connections and netting herself a new gig. Now, the conference, mind you, happens to be taking place in a breathtaking tropical locale. (Of course it does. This IS a Lifetime movie after all)
 
Though, it is at this point that the movie takes an unexpected turn. I know. The mind reels that ANY Lifetime movie plot has the capability to surprise anyone… but this one does. You see, Tess does not find a new job nor does she ever really figure out what it is she wants to be doing. But she does meet a man (obviously) who challenges and ultimately changes her way of thinking. 
 
“Life begins at the edge of one’s comfort zone.” The handsome stranger says after observing her for little more than a day. Watching her come apart over the notion that she has no job and nothing promising on the horizon, he encourages her to take a leap of faith into the great, big unknown. 
 
I won’t tell you how it ends in case you want to see it for yourself, but suffice it to say, I’ve been holding on to that line… “Life begins at the edge of one’s comfort zone” because these days, I believe it to be true. When I first moved to the big city of Columbus, I worked as a freelancer / consultant for over a year before landing a “permanent” job. 
 
Although I met some great people and did some challenging, new work — I had my mind made up that my “life” wouldn’t officially begin until someone invited me into the fold… officially. I worked that entire first year, making the most income that, up until that point, I had ever made. But it wasn’t good enough. I wanted the whole nine yards: full medical / dental coverage, life insurance, disability, vacation, 401k, stock options… you get the idea. Nothing short of that was ever going to make me feel “comfortable.”
 
It did happen. I was eventually offered a permanent job and I slept a little better at night. Knowing where I would be going day after day, week after week and (hopefully) year after year, was extremely comforting to me. I finally had a nice, warm security blanket to wrap myself up in. Or so I thought. I do find it ironic, however, that the circumstance I once deemed to be so completely “secure,” was actually anything but. I waltzed, (quite nonchalantly) through the door on a Wednesday morning, Starbucks in hand, and wound up leaving via escort… carrying all my belongings in a pathetic cardboard box. My point being this: No matter how secure you think you are… You just never know. 
 
Looking back on it now, I realize that I mainly wanted to be employed for the sake of being employed and I never actually got around to asking myself what it was that I really wanted or needed to do with my strengths and abilities. Some of you may not believe this, but I am actually glad that it happened the way that it did because until I was shown the door, I don’t think I would’ve had the courage to walk out of it on my own. I would have wallowed in my comfort zone and I’m convinced I would have wound up staying too long were I actually ever given the choice. 
 
Admittedly, I am a wee bit “uncomfortable” right now in a contract position rather than a “permanent” one… But I guess (according to the handsome stranger in last month’s Lifetime movie) I should be on the lookout since “life” apparently begins at the edge of one’s comfort zone. 

 

Making Peace With Gravity?

apple tree

I probably shouldn’t be, but sometimes I get jealous of the fresh-faced, smooth-skinned twenty-somethings I see walking about. Tan and toned in shorts and tight vintage tees, they flip-flop around reminding me that once upon a time, I too filled out a pair of short shorts like they do. In fact, watching them only succeeds in making me painfully aware of the fact that gravity is most certainly winning in the epic battle of Me vs. It.

As forty looms large, hovering ominously on a not-so-distant horizon, all I need to do is look in the mirror to be reminded that nothing stays the same for very long. I can’t help but notice every new crease, line, wrinkle, dimple or dent that forms in my reflection as everything continues it’s relentless march southward. It’s so much easier now to get depressed thinking of times I looked better, felt prettier or had the stamina of the Energizer Bunny without any help from Starbucks.

However, (and this is a BIG however) if I were to be REALLY honest with myself about those alleged “better” times, I’m fairly certain I was unhappy with my appearance back then too. Surely it’s a losing battle entertaining thoughts that I was also miserable at a time when I should have been THRILLED that all the important parts remained solidly north of the equator. But it DOES beg the question: Am I EVER going to be happy!?

I’d love to find the answer. I know my mother would too as it’s a question she’s been asking me since the first Bush Administration. Someone older and wiser than me, please tell me this is something I’ll learn to do in my 40’s!?  I’m begging you, because as I come to grips with the fact that gravity IS going to win in the end and my knees (among other things) are NOT EVER climbing back to where they were a decade ago, I need to believe that peace is possible. Please tell me that at some point in the near future I will be able to shake hands with my reflection and sign a peace treaty with gravity — or at the very least declare a ceasefire.

Matrimonial Insanity

bride in a straight jacketThere’s a reason the groom is not to see the bride before she walks down the aisle on the day of their wedding. And it isn’t what you’d think. I discovered this truth about two weeks ago when I myself took that storied stroll from the back of the chapel toward my (now) husband.

Lee and I decided a year ago to get married in Vegas. We didn’t want to make a huge fuss, spend a lot of money and find ourselves tangled in the tricky threads typically associated with tying the knot. But mostly, we just thought it sounded like a lot of fun. Which it most certainly was, however, we learned that some matrimonial stress is bound to find you no matter how far you and your betrothed decide to run.

It WILL sniff you out… in the middle of the desert… surrounded by bright flashing lights, eager blackjack dealers, endless cocktails, thumping music, Elvis impersonators and a cacophony of clanging slot machines. And it isn’t a matter of IF prenuptial stress finds you — it is merely a matter of WHEN.

Weddings ARE stressful. No matter how simple you may try to make them. The concern over family members’ opinions, ideas and traditions will weigh on you (if you invited them). Intrusive thoughts of forgetting or “misplacing” the rings, the marriage license or the cash for the minister’s fee will pop up at the most inopportune times. Fear of the right music NOT being played on cue, having a bad hair day or waking up to discover a rogue pimple on your face the morning of The Big Day will haunt your dreams.

Thus it is not uncommon for a blushing bride to scare the $#!* out of an anticipatory-if-not-already-anxious groom from time to time before the impending nuptials can occur. Which leads me to my initial observation: There is a reason the groom is not to see the bride before she walks down the aisle on the day of their wedding.

What, you may ask, is the “actual and unexpected” reason behind this time-honored wedding tradition? People THINK it is bad luck. But the real reason the groom should not see the bride before she walks down the aisle… is to prevent him from RUNNING.

Let me clarify. This man—already slightly nervous himself in the face of this major life change he is about to make—would head straight for the hills were he to see his beautiful beloved for the actual train wreck she has become by the time the day arrives. She has worried and fretted and planned for THIS moment since the first time someone read Cinderella to her as a child.

And now it is here. And there is NO WAY—in Las Vegas or elsewhere—that she is gonna gamble on the fact that her Prince Charming just might hop on the back of his trusty steed, riding off into the sunset because of a teensy, weensy case of  momentary insanity.

Flying Lessons

When you come to the end of all of the light that you know and step out into the darkness of the Great Unknown… Faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen. Either you will be given something firm to stand on, or you will be taught to fly.

personal-flight-attempt-1

I can’t remember the first time I heard this quote, but I have loved it ever since. It comforts me to be reminded that things always have a way of working out. It may take a while to comprehend what is happening or why, but eventually understanding comes. Hindsight is 20/20, they always say. In the meantime, during those darker times, those murky times, those uncertain times it is important to know that things won’t always stay that way.

Easier said than done. I know.

I personally prefer the first scenario given, that I will be given something firm to stand on. If something I can feel beneath my feet is good, then something solid and immoveable—something firm—is even better. It is the flying part that I have trouble with because it does not come naturally to me. In fact, unless you’re a superhero, it doesn’t come naturally to any of us. But sometimes, flying lessons are the only option we’ll be given. No less. No more. And that can be scary because it not only requires endless patience, but trust as well.

For months now I’ve found myself sulking around in one of those murky places… waiting to see if I’d be graciously given something firm to stand on or shoved headfirst off a cliff and forced to fly. In more specific terms, I was waiting to see if the company I’d been working for (on a contract basis for the last five months) was going to welcome me into the official fold or choose to go in a different direction with another candidate.

I equated getting the job with a great big slab of granite. A vast, strong, solid piece of property to stand on which I could call my very own. I would carve my name in it and decorate it with potted plants and adorable picture frames. Conversely, I equated NOT getting the job with flying… blind… in a hurricane… without a parachute or floatation device. Betcha can’t guess which one I’m doing right now?

Yup. I’m flying. But miraculously, it isn’t the death-defying, teeth-chattering, knee-knocking, goose-bump-inducing terror trip I was expecting. It is so bizarre. Sitting in the conference room, on an ordinary Wednesday, I knew from the look on my boss’s face that I was not about to hear the news I’d been hoping for. And I’ll be honest, I was crushed. Hot, fat tears splashed down the front my favorite periwinkle sweater the entire drive home that afternoon. That evening I cried so hard I gave myself a migraine. In fact, I cried so hard my teeth and gums and eye sockets hurt.

But when the sun came up on Thursday, I was over it. By Friday I was even MORE over it and when I agreed to stay on another week and showed up for work at the very place where my services were no longer desirable, I was completely over it.  No leftover attitude. No residual bitterness. Just peace, calm and contentment. I’m not exactly sure what happened… other than the distinct possibility that although I am flying, it is not without a net. 

You see, while I’ve been wading around in fear and uncertainty, worrying and fretting  about the unknown the last five months — my soon-to-be-husband, family and friends have been weaving a pretty tight mesh beneath me. Making it clear to me that even though there is no giant slab of granite beneath my feet for TOMORROW, being angry or bitter takes too much energy away from the things that I have TODAY.

Virtually Dumped

Due to the rise and surge of social media, our personal lives have changed so dramatically in the last five years that it is difficult to remember what life was like pre-Facebook, Twitter or in this instance, WordPress and the blogosphere. Ahh, the unique joys and sorrows of virtual friendships… So easy to make and even easier to break.

If you’re active at all in social media, you’ll know to what I referring when I mention getting dumped virtually. Although the one-sided, electronic break up is bound to happen from time to time—not unlike a real break up—it stings a bit when it does occur. You wake up one day without a care in the world, log on to your social media site of choice and voila! You realize you’ve one less “friend” or “follower” than you had the night before.

In the case of Facebook, I’ve learned to no longer care if and when this happens. I don’t tweet, so I can’t speak to the Twitterverse arena of the issue, but I DO blog and I think it is safe to say that in the world of blogging, losing a virtual follower can often leave a bit of virtual mark. It is especially ouchy if the ex-follower in question at one time featured you and your blog on their personal page.

Sad to say, I was dumped from a fellow writer’s blogroll a week ago. And being the neurotic, obsessive person that I am… I took to Google to see if there were any articles floating around in cyberspace devoted to the matter. There were not. Perhaps I, clearly the MOST neurotic, narcissistic, obsessive blogger IN THE WORLD, should be the one to write one, lest another pathetic dumpee similar to myself takes to Google in search of some e-comfort?

What I DID find, was a general article on “getting dumped” — you know, like in REAL LIFE. To be fair to the writer of that article and the inspiration for this post, here is the address: http://fearlessmen.com/getting-dumped/. After reading it, I realized that perhaps there are some similarities between the REAL and the VIRTUAL types of dumping. Thus, the following are the reasons given in the article for why a person may have been dumped in the real world, accompanied by a few “personal thoughts” pertaining to the cyber realm.

1. BoredomOK, so maybe my posts don’t scratch where you itch. I am who I am. Deal with it. Well, I guess you did. You dumped me. I’m sorry if I didn’t sufficiently entertain you.

2. Too Needy / Too ClingyUmmm… Perhaps my creation of this post is enough to illustrate this one? I hope you don’t mind that I wrote it. I really wish I knew how you felt about this one. Maybe I shouldn’t even post it? What do you think? I miss you.

3. Too JealousWhy do you always comment on THEIR stuff and not mine!? You NEVER comment on my stuff! You must think they are cooler/hipper/smarter/prettier/skinnier/wittier/more interesting than me! Why am I not good enough for you!?!?

4. Trying too hard too soon OR not trying hard enoughAre my comments and observations too lengthy or too short? Are there too many or too few? I soooo wish I knew so I could change and make this all better. Then again, sometimes I don’t really care what you think.

5. Lost Interest / Ran out of infatuation / Honeymoon is overPerhaps you’re tired of what you initially thought were extremely astute, brilliant and hilarious observations… and have now grown weary of repetitive entries about Spanx, wrinkles, alarm clocks, ill-fitting clothing, aggressive driving, rude people and a freakishly-abnormal fear of insects. Is that it? Was that the one that put you over the edge?

7. Chemistry / Different Directions / It isn’t what you or he/she thought it wasAlright, so maaaaybe I wasn’t what you expected me to be. But please don’t give me the “It’s not you, it’s me” bit because I know, baby, it was me. Otherwise I wouldn’t be the one sitting here in sweats and a dirty t-shirt with the remote and a wad of Kleenex in my lap, watching Beaches and putting my thighs in serious jeopardy with this quart of Ben and Jerry’s.

Schadenfreude: The Cure For What Ails You

While putting this post together, I discovered a new word. A BIG word. It was a big, multi-syllabic word. And I absolutely love learning new and big, multi-syllabic words! I love it so much, in fact, that I had to use it in the title. So here goes… The dictionary defines the German word “schadenfreude” as: satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.

Last Tuesday night I was in a bit of a mood. I came home, wandered around the house like a lost puppy and plopped, sullenly, onto the floor. I wondered if perhaps changing out of my work clothes would make me feel better. I selected a warm sweatshirt, about two sizes too big, a pair of soft, velour pants and my coziest, fuzziest socks.

“Yes, I think this will help.” I told myself. But as I tried to remove the clothes I WAS wearing… I threw a miniature hissy fit when my blouse got stuck around my shoulders. “GET OFF OF ME!!” I screamed at the stubborn garment while tugging wildly and jumping around. It’s a miracle I didn’t rip it apart at the seams. When I was finally free from it’s death-grip, I flung it on the bed and stomped my feet with extra fervor like some form of bodily punctuation.

All evening I could not shake free of the funk’s torment as successfully as I had the blouse. Wherever I went—fuzzy socks and all—“the mood” went with me. What in the world was the matter with me? Nothing negative of note had happened during the course of the day. So why then, was I so… frazzled? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it gets DARK an hour after I get home? That’s it! Maybe I have SAD (seasonal affective disorder)! Ah-Ha!… finally a scapegoat for which to blame the day’s general malaise.

Both Lee and Stan looked at me quizzically as I slogged through the motions of the end of the day. I’m sure they figured it had something to do with being female and wanted no part of it. Finally, around nine o’clock, I decided that “the mood” wasn’t going to lift anytime soon and perhaps it was best just to surrender. There would be no cheering up on this day. Or so I thought when I went to bed and flipped on the TV… And discovered the beginning of a brand new season of Hoarders!

Think what you will. Judge if you must. But I believe that this program (and so many like it) was created for the very purpose of helping US feel better about ourselves. You know, all the reality shows centered around such crippling addictions, strange behaviors, eccentricities and odd proclivities that they make us feel like we’ve truly got it all together?

I am convinced that there is nothing that quite lifts a person’s spirits as much as witnessing the suffering, insanity and lunacy of countless, anonymous others willing to put their “crazy” on display for the world to see. Schadenfreude in it’s purest, money-making form. Why else would these programs be such a huge hit if it weren’t so therapeutic to watch the personal, intimate struggles of others?

And if you think I am a horrible person for making this hideous (but true) public admission or you already knew the meaning of the word schadenfreude, then by all means you definitely ought to come away from this reading experience feeling better about yourself… for you are more intelligent and sensitive and not NEARLY as shallow and insane as me. And doesn’t that brighten YOUR day?

Monsters In the Ivy

Over the weekend I developed an incredibly strong (albeit strange and unexpected) respect for weeds. Yes, I said weeds. I would LOVE to have the same quiet strength, robust courage, iron resolve and hearty resilience as say, a towering weed — something that can just sprout up anywhere and thrive no matter the circumstance. But I fear that I am a bit more like a fussy houseplant — high-maintenance with a tendency to wither and wilt when my environment does not quite suit me. The following account is a testimony to this fact…

It has long been established that I am not a fan of yard work or of getting my hands dirty. However, I could not—in good conscience—sit inside the house reading a novel on Sunday while Lee was outside toiling in the yard. I figured that the least I could do was pull a few weeds.

Now, I feel I should mention here that I am incredibly fearful and loathsome of insects. Regular visitors to this site will not find that to be new information. However, before proceeding, I felt it was necessary to establish… just in case in you’re new or had forgotten.

Anyway, after clearing out a few of the flower beds and remaining relatively free from debris and insects, Lee said that there was something in particular that I could do that would be of great help to him. And while I was pleased to be of some service — I was apprehensive as to why he did not wish to do this particular yard-job-thing himself.

It was then that I watched with great horror as he took my garden clippers from me and trudged waaaay into the mid-calf-deep ivy patch that runs along a stone walkway over to the side of the house. He fearlessly crouched down in the dark green tangle to demonstrate for me how to cut the ivy off of and away from the brick on the house, all the while explaining how detrimental the growth was to the continued integrity of the mortar.

“UGH.” I thought, “That ivy patch has GOT to be LOADED with spiders and their impenetrable webs and ants and centipedes and earwigs and mosquitoes and God only knows what other hellish creatures!”

But I knew deep down that I needed to suck it up, put on my game face, and just do it. He needed me to do this. I offered and he had ASKED me to do this incredibly scary thing and so I knew I must. After all, it wasn’t going to kill me. And that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?

I smiled as he walked away, trying to appear as resilient and strong as the weeds that I’d just removed from the edges of the aforementioned ivy patch. But on the inside I was terrified. With the clippers in my trembling hand, I stood at the edge of the verdant, living, breathing monster trying to summon the courage to go IN.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” I asked myself while imagining a giant, black hairy spider making it’s way up my bare leg. I might get bitten or stung or maaaaaybe come down with an itsy-bitsy case of West Nile, but other than that I will be fine. JUST DO IT.

So I did. I stepped cautiously into the teeming, wicked, leafy mess and cut that ivy back as fast as humanly possible. I did NOT think about what types of demonic incarnations might be feasting on my ankles whilst I did so and I got the job done in record time.

I am relieved to report that I escaped relatively unscathed with only 11 insect bites (at last count) on my ankles, shins and calves and am thus far NOT experiencing any of the symptoms of West Nile or the Plague. A little Benedryl cream and the promise to myself that NEXT time I will dress like a bee keeper when I venture into the ivy patch, I am feeling a bit stronger today. Perhaps I have some weed-like strength within me after all.